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Women told to turn the other cheek... We need a new way.

Updated: Jan 4, 2023

Domestic violence is a pervasive and devastating problem that affects every Australian community and people of all religions, but a recent study conducted by researchers from Charles Sturt University in Australia found that it is especially prevalent within Christian relationships. According to this report, 22% of Christians who have been in an adult intimate relationships have experienced violence, compared to just 15% of the general population. This research was sponsored by sponsored by the National Anglican Family Violence Research, however, this trend is not limited to Anglicans, as other research has shown that evangelical men who periodaclly attend church are more likely to abuse their partners than men of any other religious group.

One reason that domestic violence may be more common in certain Christian communities is the influence of fundamentalist theology. Some interpretations of the Bible place strict controls on women's behaviour and promote the idea of male authority and control. A study published in the Lancet in 2015 analysed data from 66 surveys across 44 countries and found that the greatest predictor of partner violence was "environments that support male control," particularly "norms related to male authority over female behaviour." These views are held by many reformed christian churches!

However, a closer examination of the biblical passages used to justify control, reveal that they are often taken out of context and do not instruct the suppression of women. For example, the word "quiet" used in 1 Timothy 2:11 is the same word translated as "peaceful" in 1 Timothy 2:2, indicating that it is a general call for calm rather than a directive for women specifically. Furthermore, in the context of Ephesus, where the goddess Diana and her female priestesses held significant influence, it is understandable that Paul would advise Timothy to promote peaceful and quiet behaviour among the female church members.

Amongst the terrifying statistics, there is good news! Families who regularly attend 'safe churches' are less likely to experience domestic violence. This means that not ALL churches are bad! Only the Churches that preach "norms related to male authority over female behaviour" are bad... I use the word "bad" without shame... they are bad.

Personally, I believe that Men and Women are created differently and have different (yet equally important) roles in church and society. However, I believe the style of preaching and teaching found in the modern christian church is a role that can be performed by both genders. To claim only one gender can declare the Gospel is ludicrous. Many of my reformed friends have a simple rebuttal: "Isn't it better to play it safe in theological matters that are unclear. We play it safe and be cautious. We stick closely to the text even if it is complicated..."

This would be a perfectly fine rebuttal is it was in fact safe... but it is not safe for women.

To address the problem of domestic violence within Christian communities, it is crucial to reject fundamentalist interpretations of scripture and instead embrace a more nuanced and compassionate understanding. This can be aided by reducing hierarchy in churches and allowing for a more collaborative approach to understanding and interpreting the Bible. By promoting equality and mutual respect, we can create a safer and a more loving environment for all members of our communities.

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